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Constructive Alignment

Constructive alignment places a focus on what the student will learn rather than what the teacher will teach.  The 'alignment' aspect of constructive alignment involves three key pieces of any course, workshop or learning module: learning outcomes, teaching and learning activities (TLAs) and assessment methods (Biggs & Tang, 2010).   As it can often become overwhelming to choose what to include in a course, given the vast and rapidly growing amount of information available to us, constructive alignment can help narrow the scope in order to focus on what is most important.

Three elements of constructive alignment around a triangle. The three elements included in text are learning outcomes, teaching and learning activities and assesments

The following table includes a basic, hypothetical example of how constructive alignment can be applied.  Please note that the learning outcome used in this example lacks the level of detail that would be recommended for most courses but will be used for the purposes of this exercise.  Visit our Learning Outcomes page for more information on writing effective outcomes.

Learning Outcome

TLAs

Assessment Methods

'By the end of this course, you will be able to plant a tree.'

  • Watch a demonstration of a landscaper planting a tree
  • Visit a field with peers to practice planting a tree
  • Practical exam wherein students demonstrate that they can plant a tree

In the above example, all three elements - the learning outcome, TLAs and assessment method - are directly aligned.

Consider whether your course learning outcomes are directly related to the teaching and learning activities and assessment methods included in your course.  Do you have any activities or assessments that are not directly related to your course learning outcomes?  If so, consider removing those elements in favour of ones that will help you and your students practice and measure the skills that are conveyed in the course learning outcomes.

Reference

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2010, February). Applying constructive alignment to outcomes-based teaching and learning. In Training material for “quality teaching for learning in higher education” workshop for master trainers, Ministry of Higher Education, Kuala Lumpur (pp. 23-25).  Retrieved from: https://intranet.tudelft.nl/fileadmin/Files/medewerkersportal/TBM/Onderwijsdag_2014/What-is-ConstructiveAlignment.pdf

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